This issue is one that has loomed large so far in the regular season.
Trevor Hoffman has four blown saves already this month (as of press time, because there are still two games yet to be decided before April is over) which matches his total from all six months of last season. Not in Hoffman's favor for that statistical analysis is that Hoffman missed almost the entire month of April in 2009 while rehabilitating an oblique strain.
The all-time Saves leader in Major League Baseball history with 594, Hoffman has been betrayed so far this season by what got him to that point: his control.
Hoffman hasn't had elite velocity for a long time, but he has made his living on locating his fastball and getting swings and misses with his change-up. He hasn't even thrown many change-ups this year and the ones that he has thrown recently are getting bashed.
Then again, his 86 mile per hour fastball has been getting crushed as well because Hoffman simply isn't executing. Pitch selection isn't nearly the problem that locating those pitches has become.
Having said all that, Hoffman isn't the only problem in the bullpen although an ineffective closer is the most glaring. Here is a quick rundown of the other issues in the pen.
- Jeff Suppan is in it. Granted, I'd rather he be there than in the rotation, but the fact that he is anywhere on the 25-man roster is a detriment to this team.
- Needing to have a place to store Suppan lead to issue No. Two, not having a LOOGy in the bullpen. It cost us the services of Scott Schoeneweis first and later cost Mitch Stetter his spot on the big league club. We've gotten burned a couple of times already by not having Stetter to call in from the bullpen for a big out.
- Set-up man LaTroy Hawkins (though he's pitched better lately) went through a rough patch that cost the team chances at a handful of victories. Nobody is going to be perfect, but your eighth inning guy needs to be good more often than he's not.
Bottom line, when the team has lost leads in six games in the eighth inning or later, it's the bullpen that's not getting the job done.
When your inconsistent offense and sometimes ineffective starting pitching get you a lead late in the game...well, those situations simply must be converted into wins.
For all the Brewers troubles, if those six games were wins instead of losses, the review of April wouldn't be so bad and the outlook for the rest of the season wouldn't appear so bleak.